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Femme Fatale

By Richard Gorelick | Posted

Spread the word: The wigs and power drills are back. It's been 10 years since Brian De Palma brought us one of his sappy, overstimulating faux-Hitchcockian thrillers (the hilarious Raising Cain), and what a loss it's been for us. His new Femme Fatale is so consistently entertaining and ultimately such a completely satisfying movie that it should spark new rental audiences for De Palma hits like Dressed to Kill and new consideration for misses like Body Double.

What distinguishes Femme Fatale from Double Indemnity and Vertigo, the two movies most obviously on De Palma's mind, is that the point of view here is almost entirely that of the bad girl and only occasionally that of her chump. Former model Rebecca Romijn-Stamos stars as Laure, a bad girl who gets a second chance. Dramatically, the movie pivots on a particular moment when Laure considers whether or not to go good, and truth be told, it's an awkward moment for Romijn-Stamos. She scores much higher when she's in full-on bad-girl gear and using some of the comedic skills she must have picked up during guest stints among the old pros on Just Shoot Me. This flair for the broad is perfectly suited for De Palma's universe, and Romijn-Stamos' wild-eyed pleasure after she conks someone on the head with a champagne bottle is a magic movie moment.

The major obstacle on Laure's path to respectability is her former partner-in-crime (identified in the credits as Black Tie and played with convincing menace by Lumumba's Eriq Ebouaney), who holds her responsible for the botched heist that landed him in jail. The heist itself, which acts as the movie's overture, is orchestrated by De Palma with garish glee. Set to a poppy arrangement of Ravel's Bolero, the sequence features split screens, sinuous tracking shots, and a terrific make-out session between Laure and a beautiful starlet (Victoria's Secret model Rie Rasmussen), stills of which could provide accompanying illustrations in a term paper on the "male gaze."

The upshot is that while hiding out in Paris in a brunette wig, Laure meets the parents of the one person in the world who can provide her ticket out of danger--her brunette doppelgänger, Lily. Will Laure assume Lily's identity? And, assuming she does, will she let a revealing photograph of her taken by paparrazo/chump Antonio Banderas mess things up for her? Will Laure have as many chances for redemption as Brian de Palma apparently has?

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